White temple in Abu Dhabi

The sizzling Middle Eastern destination of Abu Dhabi is a true land of contrasts, where skyscrapers cast shadows across arid deserts, and where camels grant rides to tourists, before holidaymakers whizz off to rev things up at Ferrari World - the globe's largest indoor theme park.

Abu Dhabi boasts all the glitz, glamour and flamboyance of Dubai, perhaps the best known city-state in the United Arab Emirates, but Abu Dhabi offers a more authentic experience for those looking for a touch of culture and tradition.

Levels of luxury are still cranked up to the maximum at Abu Dhabi hotels though, make no mistake about that. In fact, many hotels in Abu Dhabi are tourist attractions in their own right. From the dazzling seven-star Emirates Palace, where gold and marble finishes are everywhere, to the striking Yas Viceroy on Yas Island, which stands to highlight Abu Dhabi's affluence and its eye on the future, this city's hotels will astound you before you have even checked out the rest of the destination.

And there is plenty to see and do in Abu Dhabi. Occupying an island in the Persian Gulf, the bridges that connect the city of Abu Dhabi to the mainland are seldom used by tourists, as many choose to simply stay and holiday on the island. Parks and beaches dot the spotless coastline. Stroll along the Corniche when you arrive; the waterfront promenade features playgrounds, restaurants, plenty of family-friendly pathways, plus the sun-dappled white sands of Corniche Beach (there is a section for families, one for singles, and one for everyone).

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is one of the premier attractions in Abu Dhabi, and sunset tours are not to be missed.

Other highlights include the Cultural Foundation, Qasr al-Husn, and the National Theatre.

Although the hotel scene is dominated by international brands with big and bold luxury hotels, there are some more budget conscious hotels from brands such as Premier Inn, Mercure, Novotel, Park Inn, Holiday Inn and Hilton. Look for hotels from Intercontinental, Jumeirah, Ritz-Carlton, Rocco Forte and Le Meridien at the higher end of the scale. Mid-range prices can be found at hotels from Crowne Plaza, Hyatt and Staybridge Suites. There's an unofficial hotel zone at the gulf end of the island, where most accommodation is based and where you'll find the Corniche. It's a tourist area, so there are plenty of restaurants and cafés in which to experience an Abu Dhabi evening.

Top five attractions

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

An astounding work of art, there are 82 domes competing for attention on the skyline, plus a 12-tonne chandelier and the world's biggest carpet to see indoors.

Yas Marina Formula 1 Circuit

Petrol heads will be in a spin at this incredible and futuristic race circuit. There are driving experiences to take part in.

Arabian Nights Village

Two hours from the city, in the middle of the arid landscape, is a place where old Arabia comes to life. There's no TV, no internet - just a timeless slice of the desert where you can relax for a few nights.

Emirates Palace

An iconic landmark in Abu Dhabi, and one of the finest hotels in the world, you can admire the lavish display of wealth during a tour.

Ferrari World

Start your engines! This is one for the adrenaline junkies, though shoppers and diners are also well catered for at the park's Italian-style shops and restaurants. It's best not to eat before clambering aboard the world's fastest roller coaster.


Abu Dhabi Festival; March:One of the biggest celebrations of art, music and culture in the UAE. There are many ticketed performances and some free community and educational programmes. The festival does not impact too heavily on demand for hotel rooms, though it's always advisable to book early to avoid disappointment.

Camel racing; year round: Entrance is free to see this most unusual of sports, which is hugely popular in Abu Dhabi. There are a number of race tracks; a pre-booked tour is the easiest way to reach venues.

Concerts on Yas Island; throughout the year:Some of the biggest names in the music industry grace the stage of the arena. Check in advance to see if your all-time favourite has a show lined up.